For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer’s Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1698 Plain (5 Dec 2004)

Chambers 2003 edition promised improved cross-referencing of its entries, and as a rule it has delivered. Indeed two exceptions that prove the rule crop up this month, at 3d and 27d.

Notes to the clues:

10a:   Take substance that’s rare, so police perplexed.  CORPOREALISE (anag.). The definition is beautifully disguised.

14a:   Border yielding source of fibre (not knotted noil).  ABUT (abutilon less anag.).  Two ‘sources of fibre’ in consecutive clues, and neither is ‘f’. Non-botanists will have needed a couple of letters in place to solve this one.

29a:   Gardener spends months initially in garden path.  ALLÉE ((m)allee).  You need to check this one carefully, as ALLEY is also defined as a ‘walk in a garden or shrubbery’.

31a:   In battle, retreating territorials will occupy position of north-south trench   MOAT (TA, rev., for NS in Mons ).  A lot of clue for a short answer, but an original and far from obvious treatment.

34a:   Damaged type, ignorant, old, showing means of effecting break-in?  BATTERING-RAM (batter ingram).  The charade is a very fortuitous find..

3d:    Introduction from Richard accepted by Tony?  PROEM (Roe in PM).  Richard Roe is an imaginary opponent to John Doe, listed in Chambers under the latter’s entry at Doe.

8d:    Independent young woman entering Kazakhstan to interfere.  KIBITZ (I bit in KZ).  Don’t expect political correctness to feature prominently in Azed’s clues.

22d::  Kites we like holding bits of multicoloured bunting?  WEAMBS (m, b in we as). Both the solution and its definition take a bit of finding.

27d:  Laplanders heading south are missing icy terrain.  SAMIT (initial letters).  To confirm this fairly obvious answer, you’ll need to spot Sami in Chambers, which will point you to the entry at Saam. The cross-reference was probably missed because Samit is a plural form.

Other solutions:

1a: UPPER-BRACKET (per in anag. + racket);  11a: SOOP (so op.);  12a: SIDA (hidden rev.);  14a: CREWE (ewer c, all rev.);  15a: QUIST (s in quit);  18a: CROSSTIE;  19a: PRIMUS (p rimus);  24a: TERGUM (erg in tum);  26a: ELASTASE (last in ease);  30a: LEWIS (anag.);  32a: SEMI (s EMI);  33a: NIDE (hidden rev.);  35a: SHEEP-STEALER (anag. less w);  2d: POOR’S-ROLL (anag. in poll);  4d: ROSE-CUT (anag. inc. E);  5d: BRIAR ((sh)ri(ne) in bar);  6d: REDROOT (to order, rev.);  7d: CLAUSTRA (cl + Au + anag.);  9d: TETTER (TT in teer);  11d: SCUP (c in sup);  16d: SILURIDAE (I lurid in anag.);  17d: AMUSETTE (a musette);  20d: SHAKERS (E in anag.);  21d: BEE-LINE (eel in bine);  23d: PALATE (a in plate);  25d: MISE ((pro)mise);  28d: TWIRL (Twi + r + l).